Panhandler Remains Humble as Years of Homelessness Turn to Mega-Windfall

Billy Ray Harris Now Has $182,000 in Donations, Considers Public Speaking Opportunity

Yahoo Contributor Network

Ever since the story of Billy Ray Harris broke in mid-February, the humble homeless hero now has many things to think about that don't include how to keep warm while sleeping under a bridge in Kansas City, Mo. Harris' story of returning a woman's expensive engagement ring led to a fundraiser of epic proportions that netted the man more than $182,000 on a website to crowdsource donations. The windfall caught the attention of Fox News' Geraldo Rivera Sunday, a month after his selfless act. Several touching stories have surfaced regarding the man's fortunes and how he got to where he is today.

* Rivera's video reporter states Harris has been panhandling "for the better part of a decade." The homeless man explains he was sitting on a sidewalk with his bicycle when he saw a young woman's ring in his orange cup, which Harris thought was "bling" at first.

* The hero took the ring to a local jeweler. He offered to give the homeless man $4,000 for it. Sarah Darling noticed her ring was missing about an hour outside of Kansas City on a family road trip in early February.

* Harris explains how one part of his personality as a "little devil on his shoulder" said "take the money." Then he thought to himself his grandfather would turn over in his grave if the homeless man sold the ring.

* Darling said the ring is custom-made and was a gift from her husband Bill Krecji. She said it was "really special" in the Fox News piece.

* With more than $182,000 donated to Harris from GiveForward.com , his windfall amounts to 45 times more than what the ring was going to net the panhandler at the jeweler's.

* Harris told Fox his astronomical amount is "really a surprise." His international fame has led to a family reunion with siblings he hasn't seen in 16 years living in Texas. They thought the homeless man was dead.

* KCTV updated the story the television station broke a month ago. Despite his windfall, the panhandler still "treats this as a business" because he has to survive until he receives the money. The fundraiser ends in 66 days.

* Krecji told the Kansas City television station, "This is just the beginning of the goodness." The homeless man has a good support network lined up to help once he gets the cash. Local organizations offered free financial and free legal services.

* Harris plans to buy his sister more space for a thrift store she runs in Texas. As for a career, the homeless hero may become a public speaker. He told KCTV he used to stand up in church at 9 years old to give sermons, so speaking to crowds is a natural fit.

* Doug Riggs was a lonely man who just arrived in Kansas City for a new job in 2008. He invited Harris to dinner at a barbecue restaurant just to talk. He called the humble man "an angel sent from God." In short, Harris "moved to KC, painted houses, divorced, lost his job, and became homeless." Riggs' touching blog was recently re-posted for everyone to read.

* Harris to spoke in front of a class in a video posted March 4 . He told the group "the real reason for all this is a teaching moment."

* Befriending a lonely man five years ago is just one of the thousands of lives Harris' story has touched, especially in the past month. If the speaking tour moves forward, expect Harris to have millions more friends in the coming years.

William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.

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